By Nsikak Ekanem
DSTV is evidently a household name in Nigeria and many other African countries. With a second-to-none profile, in terms of facilitating Nigerians access to hundreds of television channels as well as bringing live events across the globe to the doorsteps of Nigerians, its topnotch status in the country is incontrovertible.
DStv’s half-brother is GOtv, which, unlike the former and some other cable television service providers, does not need a satellite dish installation before a subscriber can access television channels. It is a meager package and its comparative lower subscription and tariff rate make it relatively affordable to those at the lower class. Both DStv and GOtv are from the stable of Multichoice, a South African based video entertainment and internet company.
There are a number of other digital and satellite television service providers in Nigeria, but, like what indomie is to noodles, DStv is mentioned as though it is the generic name for cable television service providers in the country. Other serviceproviders are navigating on nominal nooks, as they are hardly heard of.
In Nigeria, DStv offers a shining example for students of Commerce and Economics on demerits of monopoly. This particular monopoly is also a signpost of strategic presence of neo-colonization in a country that officially breathedoxygen of liberation and self-determination since 1960.
Monopoly is not alien to Nigerians, just as surmounting it constitutes part of resilient stories in Nigeria. When Global System for Mobile communication, GSM, came to existence in Nigeria on August 6, 2001, Nigerians were cut loose from decades-long shackles of NITEL. The glowing days of the national telecommunication company was an era when a communication minister concluded that telephone was not for the poor. But shortly after getting loose of NITEL’s monopoly, Nigerians were made to pay through the nose until Glo, an indigenous telecom company come to our rescue with per-second billings system immediately it launched itself into the Nigerian telecommunication market on August 29, 2003.
With what DStv is in Nigeria today, if judicial pronouncement is sought on matters pertaining to cable television service providers in the country, it would not be out of place to think that ejusdem generis rule would probably be used by a jurist. Ejusdem generis is Latin, meaning, “of the same kind”. In Law, it is one of the rules for legal interpretation. It means that all other cable service providers in Nigeria, if any, answer DStv.
Therefore, when on March 17, 2020 Representative Unyime Idem mentioned DStvand other direct broadcast satellite service providers in his motion for stoppage of “the unnecessary exploitation of Nigerians” he actually hit the nail on the head. The “unnecessary exploitation of Nigerians” that Idem refers to is the monthly or yearly subscription that Nigerians are gentlemanly coerced into owing to Multichoice’s monopolization of the cable broadcast services in Nigeria.
The periodic subscription implies that customers are under a must to pay for services consumed and not consumed. It means that once you subscribed, whether you glued your eyes 24 hours daily on your television set, view for a minute throughout the period or you put off the television set throughout the period under subscription, it makes no difference. Except in cases, which is very common, that you cannot access preferred channels owing to “network problem”, the service providers are not to blame. We can only blame the human nature, which makes it impossible for anyone to keep doing a particular thing round the clock.
By adhering to resolutions it earlier passed in setting up the Idem-led panel to look into the billing system of cable broadcast in Nigeria, the Femi Gbajabiala-led House of Representatives has shown that the lawmakers are not immune from plight of exploitation plaguing the Nigerian people. At the inaugural parley with stakeholders in the broadcasting sector, including the regulatory body, Nigerian Broadcasting Commission, NBC, Idem deployed both verbal and non-verbal communication to pass the position of the House of Representatives to the industry operators.
If there is a way the dead could connect with the living, Ray Birdwhistell, an American anthropologist and expert in non-verbal communication, who died 25 years ago, would have given a thumb up to, and modeled, Idem out for practically demonstrating kinesics, a word he coined in 1952. Kinesics is the interpretation and study of body movement.
Through spoken words and facial expression, Idem was reading the riot act of the House of Representatives to the regulatory agency and operators in the broadcasting industry. His furiousness was boldly written on his face, the same way what proceeded from his mouth was. While his eyes were wide and steadied on Prof Armstrong Idachaba, the Acting Director General of the NBC, his head was shaking, in what could be interpreted in the Nigerian street language to mean, “lie, lie, we no agree ooo, we no go agree ooo!”
Let us again listen to Idem’s exact words: “We have already taken a decision that Pay-As-You-Go is no going-back. We only call you to rub minds with you so that you can tell us what it takes. Nigerians have spoken to us. Ever since this committee was set up, we have received a lot of memos, calls, everywhere, and the challenge they throw at us is that no matter what it takes they need Pay-As-You-Go.”
Emphasizing further that it is not business as usual, he mentioned that the committee is not out to “exercise academic” function. Idem’s action that day lends credence to Festus Keyamo’s assertion at ministerial screening last year at the Senate that political office is more of a veritable ground for activism. Another senior advocate of Nigeria, Ebun Olu-Adegberuwa, said it was reminiscence of his “Aluta days at the Obafemi Awolowo University”. He offered a visual description of Idem as “roaring like a lion and reeling out the will of the people of Nigeria with such vehemence in these shylock entities called cable television companies.”
Idem’s body language that day falls into what is categorised as “affect display” in body movement. When effectively combined with verbal communication, like Idem did that day, non-verbal communication reinforces spoken words. Idem’saction that day was an expression of bottled up anger over an appalling system.
But to Okoh Aihe, in a column in The Cable edition of July 1, Idem’s action, which was given prime time focus in national televisions, was “a play to the gallery”.Obasolape Tychus, in a syndicated opinion article in some major Nigerian dailies,sees Idem as “gushing with no little self-importance”. There are a number of other presumptuous descriptions of Idem and more are likely on the way.
To those, including yours sincerely, that have been peering with Idem, from the time his height was not beyond his present knee level, the Akwa Ibom-born lawmaker is extremely a poor guy at showmanship. However, I can volunteer to bring Idem’s inbuilt tactics to the public in order to guide those who might want to tackle him on his present assignment. Unyime, as some of us still call him, likes to keep an eagle eye on details, the same way he likes to get grip of any task he handles. He always has the ball at his feet, just as he is good at having to gird up his loins. He does not blink an eye for anyone much as he remains poised topolarizing monopolistic establishment. Insatiable passion for excellence runs in his blood stream.
Those attributes might have contributed extensively to making him a golden boy in entrepreneurship from the South-South part of the country before moving up to the Federal Capital city for the business of lawmaking for the Nigerian federation.Those traits inform the hope of so many that Idem, alongside other members of the adhoc committee, would make the Gbajabiala-led House of Representatives and the Nigerian people proud.
While the likelihood of existence of ingrained hindrances against efficient and cost-friendly cable broadcast network in Nigeria should not be ignored, such obstacles, rather than being excuse, should task ingeniousness of operators in the broadcasting sector. Mike Adenuga’s exceptional difference through Glo is enough to inspire entrepreneurs in the broadcasting sector.
Without competition, the true worth of a brand is eluded, as there is no mirror, which competition naturally presents, to identify the difference between one brand and another. Robust competition in the Nigerian broadcasting sector may not stop DStv from being a household name. After all, it has not stopped Coca Cola.
For now, with the Idem panel carrying the banner, millions of other Nigerians are marching along the House Representatives on what Idem calls “marching order”for cable satellite television service providers to offer Nigerians bills that has human face, as Olusegun Obasanjo is wont to say.